Minutes ago, USCIS announced that starting May 26, 2015, it will suspend the "premium processing" service for all H-1B petitions requesting an extension of stay for the H-1B worker.
The announcement states that this action is necessary so that USCIS can efficiently implement the H-4 Work Authorization rule, also scheduled to take effect on May 26.
Since the 90-day processing time for the H-4 work authorization does not begin until USCIS adjudicates the underlying H-1B and H-4 extension, USCIS clearly expects a significant number of concurrently filed H-1B/H-4 extensions requesting premium processing in an effort to expedite issuance of the H-4 Employment Authorization Card (EAD).
According to the announcement, this action only affects extension requests filed on or after May 26, 2015. USCIS will continue to premium process extension petitions file before May 26. The announcement also makes clear that premium processing is still available for all other H-1B petitions, including those requesting a change to H-1B status or consular notification.
As always, please contact us with any questions.
UPDATE: On April 13, 2015, USCIS announced that they received over 233,000 H-1B petitions for the fiscal year 2016 H-1B cap. They also announced that on April 13, 2015, they completed the "random selection process" or lottery to determine which petitions would be considered for further processing under both the 20,000 master's degree slots and the 65,000 "regular" slots. USCIS will return all submitted petitions not selected for further processing.
As described in our original post below, USCIS will continue to accept H-1B petitions that are exempt from the H-1B cap.
USCIS has announced that as of April 7, 2015, they have received enough petitions under both the “regular” cap and the “master’s degree” cap to reach the annual H-1B visa limit for fiscal year 2016. USCIS will now run two computer-generated lotteries: the first to determine which petitions are considered for the 20,000 master’s degree slots, and the second to determine which petitions are considered for the 65,000 “regular” slots. All petitions not selected in the master’s degree lottery will also be eligible for the “regular” lottery. The lottery dates have not been announced.
USCIS will reject petitions subject to the cap for H-1B workers seeking an employment start date between October 1, 2015, and September 30, 2016, that are received after April 7, 2015. No new cap subject H-1B petitions may be filed until April 1, 2016, for employment beginning no earlier than October 1, 2016. USCIS will continue to accept petitions for H-1B workers assigned to Department of Defense projects and petitions for Chilean and Singaporean H-1B1 workers.
It is important to note that the cap applies only to “new” H-1B petitions, i.e. petitions filed on behalf of workers who have never held H-1B status or who have spent one year or more outside the U.S. since last holding H-1B status. Exempt from the cap are extension petitions for workers currently in H-1B status, petitions for current H-1B holders seeking concurrent employment, petitions requesting a change of H-1B employer, and petitions amending a worker’s current H-1B status due to a material change in the terms and conditions of the employment.
In addition, some “new” petitions are exempt from the cap by virtue of the type of petitioner or the type of work being done. These are petitions filed on behalf of a worker who is or will be employed at an institution of higher education or a related or affiliated nonprofit entity, and petitions filed on behalf of a worker who is or will be employed at a nonprofit research organization or a governmental research organization. Petitions for J-1 international medical graduates who have received waivers under the Conrad 30 program are also exempt from the cap.
We will continue to monitor the situation and provide updates as additional details emerge. Meanwhile, please contact us with any questions.
Undeterred by the temporary injunction that delayed the start of the expanded DACA program (which the Justice Department has appealed), the Obama Administration has announced the launch of another key element of its effort to modernize existing immigration laws.
Yesterday, USCIS announced the long-awaited regulatory change that will make certain H-4 spouses eligible for employment authorization (EAD). This extension of EAD eligibility does not apply to all H-4 spouses, nor does it apply to children.
For an H-4 spouse to be eligible for this category of employment authorization, the H-1B spouse must:
Although USCIS will not begin accepting H-4 EAD applications until May 26, 2015, we encourage potentially qualified individuals to contact us to determine whether they meet the eligibility criteria.
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Immigration law news and updates from the attorneys at Steel, Doebley & Glassman